18 November 2012

Mozambique: Renamo Refuses to Talk to Frelimo

Photo: African Elections Project
File Photo: Former rebel leader Afonso Dhlakama.

Maputo — Mozambique's main opposition party, the former rebel movement Renamo, has refused to meet with a commission set up by the ruling Frelimo Party to discuss the questions which supposedly justify the recent threats to return to war made by Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama.

The Commission announced last week consists of Afonso Meneses Camba, Manuela Mapungue, Yolanda Matsinhe and Renato Mazivila. They are not members of the Frelimo leadership, and do not sit on the party's Central Committee.

The Frelimo statement on the creation of the Commission said that the Party has always prioritized dialogue with the live forces of society, in order to preserve national unity and peace. Frelimo had always held meetings with other forces, to seek solutions to the problems facing society, it added, and since Renamo had expressed interest in a dialogue, the newly established Commission would offer to meet with Renamo.

But Renamo has flatly rejected this offer. At a press conference on Saturday, the Renamo national spokesperson, Fernando Mazanga, said Renamo was not interested in negotiating with any Frelimo delegation, but only with "serious people" from the government. He announced that Renamo has set up its own team of negotiators, headed by the party's general secretary, Manuel Bissopo.

For Frelimo, the Central Committee Secretary for Mobilisation and Propaganda, Damiao Jose, told reporters that there was no question of any negotiations with Renamo. Frelimo, he said, simply wanted to find out precisely what the concerns were that are troubling Dhlakama.

Since his sudden move a month ago from his house in the northern city of Nampula to a bush camp in the central district of Gorongosa, neither Dhlakama, nor any other Renamo leader, has issued a coherent list of demands or grievances.

There has been talk about renegotiating the 1992 peace agreement between the government and Renamo, and even of setting up a "transitional government". Neither demand is remotely realistic.

More specific demands that have featured in Dhlakama speeches concern the composition of the armed forces and the police. In particular, Dhlakama wanted the riot police (FIR) either disbanded, or reshaped, with 50 per cent of its members coming from Frelimo, and 50 per cent from Renamo. This demand is strange indeed coming from a party which is constantly protesting against undue party political influence in the Mozambican state.

As for the calls for a greater Renamo presence in the armed forces, Dhlakama has forgotten that, when the Renamo and government armies were demobilized in 1994, the vast majority of fighters in both armies refused to join the new armed forces, the FADM.

Renamo fighters who refused to join the FADM in 1994, are scarcely likely to do so now, and in any case would be too old.

Dhlakama has also repeated the habitual Renamo claim for an effective opposition veto on the National Elections Commission (CNE). But the electoral law can hardly be the subject of discussions in the Gorongosa bush, when it is already on the agenda of the current sitting of the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic.

Dhlakama has issued threats that "I am training my men up and, if we need to, we will leave here and destroy Mozambique". But this has not produced the expected response of government ministers scurrying to Gorongosa.

Instead the government seems content to leave Dhlakama in Gorongosa, where he is in no position to deliver on any promises he may have made to his followers. As the days pass and nothing happens, and there is no sign of the demonstrations that Dhlakama has been promising for the past three years, what remains of the Renamo leader's credibility is crumbling away.

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InFocus

No Solution Yet to Mozambique's Civil War Threats

File Photo: Former rebel leader Afonso Dhlakama.

The government and opposition party (Renamo) will meet again after the first meeting failed to yield concrete solutions to the country's political disputes. Read more »